St. Johns River: Wildlife encounters

It’s Tuesday. I’m on the St. Johns River getting ready for the upcoming Elite tournament which starts this Thursday. It’s an open secret that this river has more wildlife on it than anywhere else we fish. Yesterday proved that, hands down. I’m not discounting the fishing, though. It’s great. I suggest you look for some serious weights from a group of serious anglers at the St. Johns River Showdown.

I’m staying in a house down here, right on the river, with Fred Roumbanis and J Todd Tucker. Yesterday I got up early and went to an isolated ramp to put my boat in the water. Across from the ramp is an Ace Hardware store with a dumpster alongside of it. I heard a noise and looked up to see a black bear running across the street and into the woods.

It’s the closest I’ve ever been to one, and I spend a lot of time outdoors. As if that wasn’t enough, a few minutes later I saw a manatee. It was right alongside my boat. I know that’s not all that unusual but they’re incredible creatures, nonetheless.

Not too long after that, I saw a bunch of alligators. Again, that’s not all that unusual but they were big. We see more alligators on the St. Johns than anywhere else. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because there are more of them here or maybe it’s because we can locate them better on the river. 

As the day went along, I noticed bald eagles flying around as well as several other kinds of birds, both big and small. I don’t care how many eagles you’ve seen in your lifetime; they’re spectacular. Whoever decided to make the bald eagle our national bird and emblem knew what he was doing. It captures the American spirit perfectly. (I just looked it up. It was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 20, 1782.)

Then, just before dark, I was close to an old cabin on the bank when I saw a bobcat. I’ve seen him before in the same place so I wasn’t surprised. I’m thinking he lives underneath it. Still, you don’t see many of them. It’s a treat.

That’s a lot of wildlife in one day if you stop to think about it. Florida isn’t all retirees, beaches and amusement parks.  We’re near Jacksonville and not too far from Orlando. Yet we see all kinds of wild animals living their life around humans. Motor a few hundred yards from almost any ramp on the river and it’s like you’re inside a Tarzan movie.

Actually, most of the state is like that — heavily populated areas surrounded by rural habitat. No matter where you’re at you’re not too far from people or critters. That’s one of the reasons I like it as much as I do.

But as cool as the wildlife is, we all know they won’t let you weigh it in at the end of the day. This is still a business about bass. Let’s hope I find the big ones.

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